A Dark Future: Preventable Blindness on the Rise in Poor Countries
By admin July 18, 2016

5976Across the world, over 12-million children under the age of fifteen are blind because of preventable causes. Blindness can be caused by several factors, but the leading cause in these cases is poverty and poor access to healthcare, especially in early childhood development. One of the more specific causes of high rates of blindness amongst children is retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), which occurs in premature infants and can be caused by being given too much oxygen after birth. There is a complex balancing act at play leading to these high rates of ROP. Brian Doolan, CEO of the Fred Hollows Foundation, said global advances in neonatal care mean more children are surviving early births, but this means more premature babies are at risk of ROP.


“They’re surviving because there’s improved medical care but often the quality of the care, particularly in relation to the manipulation of oxygen supplies, is not at a high enough level,” he told The Guardian. Other causes include glaucoma, malnutrition and cataracts. As in most public health issues, the nature of the problem has multiple contributing factors. Poverty is one of the larger ones in this issue. Approximately three-quarters of the world’s blind children live in the poorest regions of Africa and Asia, where healthcare resources – especially optometrists – are few and far between.


The rising blindness can be tackled in a multitude of ways. The first, which is being piloted, includes introducing crops with enhanced levels of vitamins. Earlier this week, over a 100 Nobel Laureates pushed for Greenpeace to consider the benefits that these crops could have for those who live in the poorest parts of the world. This would tackle the malnutrition aspect. To then take on the lack of healthcare resources and poor access is a difficult task involving many stakeholders. It would begin with training community health and public health workers to screen and counsel for blindness and its prevention. This may not have been a priority to date, and would call for a shift in best practices and protocols used by these workers. Secondly, traditional healers who are mainly rural citizens placed on the front line of care need to be trained to dispense information about blindness and prevention tips. These care givers are already integrated into the community and the trust people have in them could help further the prevention of childhood blindness.


However, many NGOs are beginning to act on this important issue and bringing light to the plight of many young children across the globe. Usually blindness takes a backseat in poor countries to infectious diseases, but organizations are starting to actively lobby for governments to put resources into their future and helping them realize that the health of their youth is the prosperity of their nation.




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Thanks for sharing !

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